Proven Principles to Help You Craft More Impactful Advertising

Advertising has one purpose and one purpose only – to affect someone’s behavior.

You want consumers to try something different. More specifically, you want them to switch from their current laundromat to your store, which they likely have never visited before.

The key to doing so is to know what really matters to those relative to the kind of product or service that you’re selling – in this case, laundry. This knowledge can be gained in a number of ways. However, the best method is to simply ask them, which can be accomplished through the development of small focus groups or properly designed questionnaires handed out to those in your laundromat or at other appropriate locations.

Once you’ve gathered this information, you will turn it into what is called a “creative brief,” from which your advertising copy will be developed specific to the medium to be utilized. The advertising content is critical because, quite simply, great content is the greatest sales tool in the world.

Next, you will want to position your laundry business in the minds of consumers as the best way to satisfy their particular needs or wants, relative to other laundromats in your market at which they could be doing their laundry. They will need to know what evidence supports this positioning – and that evidence must be credible.

Also, what tone should your advertising take? What is the spirit of the ad?

Think about what response you want from your prospects as the result of having been exposed to your advertising. What do you want them to think, believe or say? How will your advertising success be measured?

For example, suppose you are in the business of selling milk. If you wanted to get moms to buy more milk for their children (as opposed to soda and other sugary drinks), your ads should indicate that giving kids milk makes mothers feel good because they are doing what they believe is the right thing for the children – and this, in turn, supports their image of themselves as good moms.

You can reinforce this belief by reminding moms about the vitamins and minerals, which you already know are determinants of her milk-buying behavior.

But, remember that it’s not about the vitamins and minerals – they are just there to give her “permission to believe.” It’s really about her being a good mom.

Additionally, consumers are not at all interested in your laundry’s “features” or “attributes.” They only want to know how it will help them – they want to know the “benefits,” as well as whether or not there is a major difference between your business and the competition. Consumers are on the lookout for a unique selling proposition.

The AIDA Principle

The acronym I use for writing advertising copy – no matter what the medium – is AIDA, which stands for attention, interest, desire and action. I use it in every ad I compose because it’s powerful and it works. Alas, it works so well that, unfortunately, my wife and I own more than one vegetable chopper, if you get my drift.

No testing or guessing is necessary. Not only do I use AIDA, but every infomercial is constructed this way. Not just a few – every single one! I could watch infomercials all day long just for the fun of picking out these four key factors.

Let’s begin with exactly how to get the attention of the reader, listener or viewer of the advertisement. That is most often achieved with the headline of the ad. In fact, the headline is really an advertisement for your advertisement. I created one of my best headlines, in terms of results, for a television commercial I wrote and also performed in.

The opening line was: “Hi, I’m Stephen Bean, owner of Woodward Coin Laundry, located in Detroit at Six Mile Road and Woodward Avenue. And I’m here to tell you that if you love broken machines, unfriendly attendants, dirty floors, a messy parking lot, and empty snack and drink machines that you will absolutely hate Woodward Coin Laundry.”

This immediately grabs the viewers’ attention, and then I go on to explain that our laundromat has none of those characteristics. However, the point is that the headline is so unusual and outrageous that getting their attention is quite easy. So, use a headline that achieves that function of getting attention. If you do, the reader, listener or viewer most likely will stick around to read, hear or see the rest.

Now that you have gotten their attention, the next step is to garner their interest. This is done by personalizing the copy. In the case of vended laundries, the advertisement must be directed toward individuals who either use laundromats on a regular basis or perhaps visit them occasionally to wash larger items that won’t fit into their single-load washing machines at home.

The third ingredient in the formula is to elicit the desire of the target audience to utilize your laundry. This will normally occur if the first two steps are properly in place.

And the last step is to ask for action. No doubt, you have all heard or seen the command in commercials to “call now.” Believe it or not, those two words actually work.

So, there you have it. Get the target’s attention, develop their interest, create desire and spur them into action, in that sequential order.

The Generic Determination Rule

The next specific strategy I utilize in all of my advertisements is referred to as the Generic Determination Rule, and it is a very powerful weapon in your advertising arsenal.

Did you know that one month is longer than 30 or 31 days? Of course, that’s not true, but it is in “perceived” time, which is the psychological key than can unlock the door of buyer receptivity. What the rule means is that some generic term – such as a month – exercises greater control over human reactions than a specific number associated with it – such as 30 or 31.

Does it work? Absolutely!

A half an hour is actually “longer” than 30 minutes in the human brain. The rule states that the generics determine reaction more than the specific numbers. With that said, 60 minutes will seem to be less time than an hour. Similarly, 60 seconds seems to be less time than a minute, and 24 hours seems to be less time than a day.

McDonald’s uses this rule very effectively when advertising its mega-popular Quarter Pounder, which is promoted as a larger burger but in reality is only a mere four ounces of ground beef.

Lastly, let me add that four blocks seems shorter than a half mile. Fun concept, right?

For your laundry business, the Generic Determination Rule can be used when advertising how quickly drop-off laundry will be ready for pick up – for example, 12 hours will seem shorter than half a day. Or, when describing your location, one mile seems longer than 5,280 feet.

Using this rule means that you can control the readers’ or listeners’ reactions without misrepresenting or changing the facts.

Along those same lines, I also use what is referred to as the Chronology Rule when describing long periods of time, such as how long my business has been in operation.

For instance, which of the following slogans seems to imply a longer period – “Established in 1988” or “More Than 30 Years at This Location?” Clearly, it’s the second option.

Motivated Buyers

Lastly, I always take advantage of the fact that there are five principal buying motives, regardless of the product or service being advertised. These motives are: fear, greed, exclusivity, guilt and the need for approval – and they can occur individually or in concert with each other, working together harmoniously.

The idea is to work these motives into your advertising copy in sequential order, and the recipients of the ad will intrinsically sense when one or more of these motives entice them to visit your laundry.

Here is a sample ad that contains all five buying motives.

“Are there times when the thought of washing your clothes at a laundromat that may have dirty machines enters your mind? (Fear) If that’s the case, you will love the Great Soap Opera Laundromat, because clean machines are what we are about.

“And you will find our prices to be extremely attractive. (Greed) When you visit the Great Soap Opera, you will feel absolutely charmed by the environment and know instantly that you are in a special place. (Exclusivity)

“We know that you will feel great to have washed and dried your family laundry in a clean, modern and safe facility, (Guilt) and we bet that your family members will know how much you appreciate them by choosing the sparkling clean Great Soap Opera Laundromat. (Need for Approval)”

I’d also suggest using multiple photos of your laundry. Make these images as large as possible. Of course, this can be done only with print and television advertisements. For that very reason, I’m not a big fan of radio advertising.

Hopefully, you now understand that advertising is a heady process and that impactful advertising is the result of implementing distinct methodologies. Advertising agencies are well aware of this and charge hefty prices to develop ads that get results.

However, I trust that after reading this column you have a bit more confidence in your ability to construct your own structurally sound and effective advertisements.

I’m a firm believer in the value of laundromat advertising. As Henry Ford said, “Not advertising to save money in a business is like stopping your watch to save time.”

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